Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

23 January 2001 (continued)

Mr Attwood:

If the Member reads the Patten Report closely he will see that Patten sets out those who are entitled to become members of the future Police Service. There has been no objection raised by the Government on that matter in relation to its legislation. Following a close reading of the report, the Member will realise that what he has just said is inconsistent with both the Patten Report and the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.

I now move to the Sinn Féin amendment, and attempt to position the issue of punishment attacks in the wider context of the current police debate. There are changing attitudes in society to the issue of policing, and it is important that these attitudes, which are beginning to emerge, be heard. We sense in the community that we represent, and beyond, that people want to begin to test the structures - not just the political structures that have been set up by the Good Friday Agreement, but the policing structures that could yet be set up. That is evident in the fact that many people are beginning to test the new independent police complaints mechanism.

Our communities, which have been so resilient over many years in adverse circumstances, are beginning to strain, and core community values are being put under pressure. It is time to consolidate those communities, and one mechanism of doing that is to have an agreed and acceptable police service. Whatever differences there may be on many issues arising from the Good Friday Agreement, there is a sense that the agreement itself has to be consolidated. It is our last best strategy and our future best hope. Nothing should be done that idly or recklessly endangers what has been so painfully created.

It is time for those in our communities who imposed their will through paramilitary punishment attacks, or who organised to impose their viewpoint on the wider structures of our community, to begin to roll back, so that individuals and the community are liberated and the common good is served.

We face a difficult time, and there are currently negotiations taking place in Downing Street. It is very important to understand that if we can get the policing issue right - and we might not get it right - our community is minded, willing and able to play its role in that new political and policing order. If we can get that right in the negotiations going on in Downing Street, then we can get our communities right, and we will see the purging of the tribalism of punishment attacks.

Ms Gildernew:

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Prior to winding up, I make the point that I find it incongruous that we are debating punishment beatings as a result of a DUP motion, when numerous Catholic homes have been attacked in places such as Larne and Coleraine. There has been a deafening silence from the Unionist communities on those sectarian attacks on Catholic homes.

Roy Beggs said that he could not support the amendment because of its source and its objective. I cannot understand how anyone can object to the creation of an accountable policing service that enjoys the support of all communities.

Billy Hutchinson said that there was a need to change attitudes and that the only way we could avoid punishment beatings was to find alternatives. I agree fully with that. We need to work with the community in the interim period when we do not have an acceptable policing service in order to ensure that the community has a say in finding non-violent means of dealing with this matter.

Monica McWilliams talked about the multi-agency approach. We have been working on addressing the policing deficit and spearheading a multi-agency approach. We are working with all statutory agencies to try to eradicate punishment beatings - west Belfast being a good example of that.

I will not bother to comment on most of what Sammy Wilson said. He, like some others in the Chamber, was not listening when I said that I did not condone punishment beatings and that my party does not condone them. He also talked about a one-party police state. We have good experience of that because that is what we have had for the past 80 years - a one-party police state controlled and abused by the Unionist community. There has been plenty of experience of that.

John Kelly talked about the lack of a fair and impartial policing service. I have addressed that. There has certainly been a huge gap in proper policing, which has led to this situation.

Eileen Bell was definitely suffering from "rose-coloured spectacles" syndrome, for there has been plenty of evidence of international criticism of the RUC, including criticism from the United Nations rapporteur. The RUC has been indicted by many credible organisations, both at home and worldwide, and has a horrendous record of human rights abuses. That speaks for itself.

As for what Alex Attwood said about my Colleague John Kelly, Mr Kelly said that punishment beatings are wrong and have no place in any civilised society. Unfortunately, in the absence of fair and impartial policing for all, it is a reality that so-called punishment attacks will continue until we eradicate the policing deficit.

Sinn Féin has been working incredibly hard on the policing issue since the Good Friday negotiations, and indeed long before that. Today our leadership is in London, working to bring about the new beginning in policing that our community not only wants but needs. Nobody is saying that the Nationalist/Republican community does not need or want a policing service that will work for it. We have to create an accountable policing service acceptable to all people. No one can refute our efforts to support non-violent solutions to try to solve this problem. Go raibh míle maith agat.

Mr Paisley Jnr:

This has been a sombre debate at times. I am very pleased that my party was able to get the motion onto the Floor of the House and that we have had a chance to deal with an issue that quite rightly concerns anyone who is interested in getting the people who carry out these evil, atrocious and brutal attacks made amenable to the law. I regret that the SDLP does not want to make those people amenable to the law and will therefore not be supporting this motion. It is unfortunate that it has not been able to pick up the gauntlet, to face the challenge and to run with those of us who want to see people made amenable to the law for their illegal actions.

Like most people, I am disgusted that Sinn Féin attempted to bring in a wrecking amendment on this issue. What was the purpose of its amendment? Its purpose was to take the spotlight away from its own guilty, blood-soaked hands on this issue.

3.30 pm

In reality, Sinn Féin does not want to be held accountable for the actions which are engaged in by its organisation and which that organisation orders to take place. Sinn Féin, in its amendment, wants to blame everybody except those who carry out the punishment beatings. It wants to blame the Housing Executive, the Government agencies, the RUC - everyone but the man who is swinging the baseball bat. The real responsibility lies with its paramilitary organisation. Unless Sinn Féin faces up to that responsibility - and unless the Government accept their responsibility to take on those men of violence - we will be back, in a matter of months, to debate the increase in paramilitary attacks that will have continued to take place throughout our country.

This debate on punishment attacks is marked by the fact that, over the last few months, terrorists have maximised the number of punishment attacks and the level of terrorism. Meanwhile, those people and party members associated with the Belfast Agreement have taken a minimalist approach. They say as little on it as they can get away with; they condemn it quietly; they neither raise the issue nor allow it to make headlines. They take a minimalist approach that has served as a nod and a wink to the terrorists to carry on with their maximalist approach, which sees approximately five paramilitary attacks taking place in our country every week. This approach causes widows to be harmed, children maimed, and people's lives to be destroyed.

The reality, which is made clear in Prof Colin Knox's report, is that those parties which could do most to stop the beatings are doing the least. We have seen an example of that in this Chamber today. The parties that could stop it will not do so. They want to blame everyone except their own foot soldiers, and they will not take the measures that they should be taking to switch off violence. The evidence of that is very clear. During the first presidential visit to Northern Ireland by Bill Clinton they were able to switch off the violence for a certain number of days and then switch it back on. The Chief Constable told us, at the time, that they were able to change the cycle of the violence and, on the basis of a command from an IRA officer, to switch the scene of an attack from Belfast to Londonderry. They were also able, at the command of an officer, to switch an attack from one in which people were shot in the knees to one in which they were shot in the elbows. They have a direct say in these attacks, and the evidence is clear that these people could stop this violence if they wanted to.

Punishment attacks are the stock-in-trade of the paramilitary organisations, so I almost recognise that they will be hypocritical about this issue. We take their hypocrisy as read. By bringing this motion before the House, we have also pointed the finger at the British Government and the Executive for failing to take action where it is possible to deliver on these issues. The Government's lackadaisical approach of seeing no evil and hearing no evil must be condemned. It is deplorable that such a policy should condemn 15-year-old children to the most ritualised, summary, abusive regime in the British Isles - and that is what is happening.

In this politically correct world we are right to condemn child abusers and find ways to prevent and convict them. Many Members would do a 15-minute stint in front of a camera to help bring in measures to prevent a child abuser. Those same people do not seem to want to run to the cameras to condemn the paramilitaries with the same voracity with which they condemn other issues of political correctness. There is a deafening silence from those people. The media cannot find them when they need to hear these people's condemnation.

During the debate we heard from the Women's Coalition, and it was clear from the comments of the party spokesperson that she had not read the entire report. I note that the Member quoted from the summary of the report. If she had been in the Chamber during the whole debate she would have known more about the report and the extensive work that was carried out.

Prof Knox and Dr Monaghan presented, in just one section of their report, more than 25 specific measures to deal with violence. A quite deliberate attempt is being made by some to ignore the fact that there is a way to deal with this violence in an effective manner.

There is a way to deal effectively with this violence. The fact is that the political parties in the Government know who are behind these attacks, yet it is probable that the issue has not even been put on the agenda of the Executive Committee. You can understand why there would be very uncomfortable shifting on seats in room 21 if the issue of paramilitary attacks happened to be on the agenda of the Executive of this place. The Minister of Education could name and shame the people who carry out those attacks if he really wanted to. He could indicate people in his own organisation who carry out those attacks, but he does not do it. Perhaps that is because those people are too close to his family home.

The misnamed Chief Whip of Sinn Féin/IRA could take the opportunity to reveal to the House the name of the chief bludgeoner for Belfast IRA company if he really wanted to. But, of course, his party does not want to name and shame people; that might be too close to home. Instead of getting his people in this Assembly to put forward wrecking motions, Mr Adams could, if he wanted to, bring forward motions or use the privilege of this House to name and shame those behind the attacks in Belfast. Perhaps those names are too close to his home for comfort also.

In reality, Mr Deputy Speaker - and I use the words carefully - brothers, nephews, brothers-in-arms of that organisation represented in this House are behind these attacks. That is the reality; that is what the police say, and perhaps we should take the opportunity and the privileges afforded to us in this House to name and shame those individuals. My Colleague came close to it. Perhaps that is called for because it is clear from the comments we have heard from members of the Nationalist community that they have no shame. They have no shame in what they are saying; if they had any shame, they would be supporting this motion.

Alban Maginness's contribution was more disappointing than normal. Once again he has washed his hands of any responsibility. In fact, I almost heard the creak in his neck when he looked over his shoulder at Sinn Féin and the electoral responsibilities that will be facing him. Those parties take a view that is quite clearly political. They have lost sight of justice, decency and truth on this issue. Paramilitarism and paramilitary attacks have soared. It is easy to conclude from Prof Knox's report that the agreement has failed to defeat paramilitarism in this country in any way, and those who let the prisoners out of jail are responsible. The increase in these attacks is the predictable outcome of prisoner releases. We must be crazy if we thought that the release of paramilitary prisoners would not see an increase in violence on our streets. It clearly has.

No, this motion goes right to the heart of the realities that confront us today. The cancer at the heart of these institutions - putting gunmen into government - establishes a Mafia society and erodes the very fabric of the society that we wish to live in. Indeed, it also turns the vast majority of democratic, law-abiding, decent citizens off taking responsibility and seeing this matter carried through to an ultimate and lawful conclusion.

Many of the comments made to the House by Ms Courtney and Mr "not so legal eagle" Attwood are misguided. The Belfast Agreement does not - to use Mr Attwood's words - offer "our future best hope". To Ms Courtney I say that the Good Friday Agreement is not "the only means of getting rid of these so-called paramilitary attacks". Prof Knox has presented cogent evidence that the Good Friday Agreement is failing.

The Good Friday Agreement is failing to stop these violent attacks. Prof Knox's report is thrown down as a gauntlet to us all. We have a responsibility to pick it up, vote and demonstrate our abhorrence of these paramilitary attacks. Those who fail to do so will show the community that they do not condemn paramilitary violence - they condone it.

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

Main question put.

The Assembly divided: Ayes 48; Noes 14.


Ian Adamson, Fraser Agnew, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Eileen Bell, Paul Berry, Esmond Birnie, Norman Boyd, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Joan Carson, Seamus Close, Wilson Clyde, Fred Cobain, Robert Coulter, Ivan Davis, Nigel Dodds, Boyd Douglas, David Ervine, David Ford, Sam Foster, Oliver Gibson, John Gorman, David Hilditch, Derek Hussey, Billy Hutchinson, Roger Hutchinson, Gardiner Kane, Danny Kennedy, Robert McCartney, David McClarty, William McCrea, Alan McFarland, Maurice Morrow, Sean Neeson, Ian Paisley Jnr, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, Iris Robinson, Ken Robinson, Mark Robinson, Peter Robinson, Patrick Roche, George Savage, Jim Shannon, Denis Watson, Peter Weir, Sammy Wilson.


Bairbre de Brún, Pat Doherty, David Ervine, Michelle Gildernew, Billy Hutchinson, John Kelly, Alex Maskey, Gerry McHugh, Mitchel McLaughlin, Monica McWilliams, Francie Molloy, Jane Morrice, Dara O'Hagan, Sue Ramsey.

Question accordingly agreed to.


This Assembly notes with grave concern the contents of the 'Informal Criminal Justice Systems in Northern Ireland' report on punishment beatings by paramilitary organisations; deplores and condemns the Government's inadequate response to the report; and calls on the Government to bring forward measures to ensure that those responsible are made amenable to the law.

3.45 pm

Mr J Kelly:

On a point of order. Perhaps you can help me, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I thought that when a Member wished to abstain he or she had to go through both Lobbies to register the abstention.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

I do not think that is necessary.

Mr McCartney:

At the beginning of this debate a number of people expressed disquiet that Back-Benchers were limited in their speeches to five minutes. Mr Deputy Speaker, you advisedly told the House that as some 30 Members were listed to speak, the Business Committee had decided to limit Back-Benchers' speeches to five minutes. In the event, not all the time was taken up. I understand that this was because Members put their names on a list, on which you and the Business Committee formed your decision, and then withdrew their names. In effect, those who withdrew their names denied other Members the opportunity to deal with certain issues in this debate.

I do not always agree with Mr Billy Hutchinson, but he made the point that a significant part of the debate was not only about stating a problem but also about advising on what might be done about that problem. The time limitation meant that many aspects, such as those he mentioned, were ruled out. You should give direction to those Members who put down their names to speak and then withdraw.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Thank you, Mr McCartney, for raising that point. You are correct. A number of people withdrew after indicating that they wished to speak. Also, some of those who spoke did not do so for the full five minutes. Members should note this point for future reference.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

Further to that point of order. Will the Deputy Speaker look at how many times this has happened before? To my knowledge it has happened on two other occasions. People put down their names, and the debate was limited. Then they pulled out. Those who wanted to speak did not get to speak, and those speaking, and entitled to more time by the ordinary rules of debate, were cut back. Those who do this consistently should be told that their names cannot be taken unless they give an undertaking that they are going to speak. At Westminster when you put down your name, you stick to what you say.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

You are quite right. It does create a problem, and I am sure that it will be referred to the Business Committee and discussed at great length at the next meeting.


On-Course Track Betting: Employment Protection


Mr Bradley:

I beg to move

That this Assembly calls upon the Minister of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment to bring forward legislative proposals to provide employment protection rights for those, directly or indirectly, employed in respect of on-course track betting.

(Madam Deputy Speaker [Ms Morrice] in the Chair)

As I explained in my opening remarks to my motion of 29 Novemebr 2000, which called for the introduction of legislation to permit Sunday on-course betting, the outcome sought in relation to the overall proposal falls within the remit of two ministerial Departments. For that very reason I submitted this motion to the Business Office simultaneously with the one passed in this House in November.

The purpose of this proposal is to address any fears or concerns those employed, directly or indirectly, in the racing industry may have regarding the pending introduction of Sunday on-course betting. Acceptance of this proposal will also set aside any concerns that elected representatives may have regarding the level of protection available to those who, for religious or family reasons, cannot work on Sundays. I was conscious from the outset that legalising Sunday on-course betting would raise legitimate concerns for both employees and ancillary workers affected by such legislative reform.

All persons could be legally safeguarded by the introduction of adequate employment protection rights similar to those available to workers in England and Wales - pursuant to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. Such legislative measures could protect those I have already referred to - employees who, for religious or family-related reasons, cannot work on Sundays. The fact that an Act is already in place in England and Wales simplifies my role in proposing the motion, and, no doubt, it will also prove to be of immense assistance to the Minister of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment when he commences the setting up of similar legisaltion for Northern Ireland.

For the record - to give Members some indication of the level of protection provided by the Act (Chapter 40) - I shall highlight the relevant provisions. Schedule 8, which relates to section 20, deals with "Rights of Betting Workers as Respects Sunday Working". Paragraph 2 of the same schedule defines "protected betting worker". Paragraph 4 deals with "Notice of objection to Sunday working". Paragraph 5 defines "Opted-out betting worker". Paragraph 6 defines "notice period". Paragraph 7 deals with "Right not to be dismissed for refusing Sunday Work".

Paragraph 9 deals with dismissals regarded as unfair by virtue of paragraph 7 or 8. Paragraph 10 deals with the right of the employee not to suffer detriment for refusing to work on Sundays. Paragraph 11 outlines the employer's duty and the employee's statutory right in relation to Sunday betting work. Paragraph 12 deals with the effect of rights on contracts of employment. Paragraphs 13 to 21 deal with many important issues, such as transitional modifications relating to maternity cases, dismissals on grounds of assertion of statutory rights, dismissal procedures agreements, and conciliation.

4.00 pm

As I said earlier, the fact that such an Act is in place elsewhere in these islands, having been passed by Parliament, is an assurance that comparable workers in England and Wales are fully protected. I am confident that if the applicable sections of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 were to be used by those responsible for drafting the Assembly's legislation, we could fully protect our employees in matters pertaining to Sunday work.

I therefore propose the motion in the clear understanding that the Minister of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment, Dr Farren, can introduce protective legislation for all grades of workers, similar to that applying in England and Wales.

The Chairperson of the Committee for Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment (Dr Birnie):

Late last year the Assembly passed a motion proposed by the instigator of this motion. That motion, back in November, dealt with the extension of betting. When, and if, this change does occur - and it is, of course, an open question as to what changes may occur in Great Britain and what implications they may have for the industry in Northern Ireland - it will have implications for the working conditions of workers in the betting industry in Northern Ireland. Hence this motion today.

Among the most relevant previous pieces of legislation are the Sunday Trading Act 1994 in Great Britain, and its equivalent here, the Shops (Sunday Trading, &c.) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997. The crucial distinction - which the mover of the motion has referred to - is that there is legislation in Great Britain which includes the betting industry, whereas our piece of legislation does not.

These various pieces of legislation attempt, within their differing remits, to establish that those workers who find themselves in activities that for the first time involve Sunday working will be given protection. In other words, they will not find themselves compelled to work on Sunday, and they will not be dismissed if they refuse so to work.

I assume - or perhaps now know from what he has said - that Mr Bradley's concern is that such provisions in the Sunday Trading Act in Great Britain and the Shops (Sunday Trading, &c.) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 should now be extended to include the betting and gambling industry in Northern Ireland. If this is done - if the situation arises where it needs to be done - the overarching European Union Directives will also be relevant, especially in the area of working time. In normal circumstances these limit the maximum working week to under 48 hours. Some Assembly Members might find a total working week limited to under 48 hours a rather novel concept, but that is now the general provision, which the UK, along with other EU states, has subscribed to. That will have implications for the issue of working on Sunday.

As Chairperson of the Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment Committee, I will endorse the motion.

I will conclude on a more personal note, without wearing my Chairperson's hat. I opposed Mr Bradley's initial motion because of the implications that it had with regard to the working conditions that the Assembly is considering today. Of course, it is entirely right that if Sunday on-course track betting is allowed that the Assembly should seek to regulate it and provide adequate employment protection. My impression of the English and Welsh experience since Sunday trading was liberalised is that it is impossible to provide complete legal safeguards to protect workers who, for whatever reasons - family, social or conscience - cannot work on Sundays. Given that, I still hold that the ideal position is that this difficulty should not be entered into in the first place. I support this motion subject to that proviso.

Mr J Kelly:

Go raibh maith agat, A LeasCheann Comhairle. I also support the motion. As Mr Birnie stated, it dates back to the legislative change in 1997, which did not include those who worked in the betting industry but did apply to shop opening hours and the hours that employees should work.

If there is going to be Sunday racing in Down Royal, it is timely that provision should be made in law to ensure that no one is penalised or forced to work on Sundays. Adam Ingram said at the time

"I know there are many people who have demonstrated a desire for shopping on Sunday".

On that, one could equally say "for racing on Sunday". He went on to say

"the new legislation provides freedom of choice, enabling people to choose for themselves how they spend their Sundays. I ask those with concerns about the relaxation of Sunday trading" -

or racing -

"restrictions to remember the archaic and inconsistent state of the present law which required urgent replacement."

He continued

"I am very conscious of the need to protect the rights of shop workers" -

one could say betting workers -

"who do not want to work on Sundays. The new protection rights for shop workers" -

that is, betting workers -

"contained in the Order will do just that and they apply irrespective of age, length of service or hours of work".

I am not going to trawl through everything, but the legislation goes on to discuss working times, including travelling when it is part of the job, working lunches and job-related training. That is all included in the legislation introduced by Adam Ingram.

The one omission that I noted is the issue of pay for those who work on Sundays. I was at Leopardstown last Sunday, where I saw Istabraq restore Ireland's confidence for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. I spoke to a few bookmakers at the racecourse who said that their clerks were possibly the best paid people in Ireland. Therefore we are not talking about bookies' clerks, rather about the ancillary staff who work in the tote, catering and stewarding.

I say to P J Bradley that we should put down a marker not just about working conditions and the issues of forcing people to work on Sundays or whether they are penalised for not working on Sundays but also about the type of wage structure that will exist for those people who work on Sundays.

Thank you, A LeasCheann Comhairle. I support the motion.

Mr O'Connor:

I support the motion in the name of my Colleague. However, it strikes me that surely there should be employment protection laws which act as an umbrella to cover everyone. We live in a society that contains Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews.

Forcing a Christian to work on a Sunday is no worse than forcing a Jew to work on a Saturday. We are now in a multicultural and multi-ethnic society and, overall, our employment laws should reflect that. I know that there are anomalies that come out from time to time, but we should try to be reflective of society as a whole.

Mr John Kelly raised an important point about the working conditions of staff. Does that also include night-time racing? There is more and more betting from foreign countries. Are people going to be made to work shifts? We should not have to deal with employment protection every time a motion comes forward with legislative proposals to provide employment protection rights for anyone. We should have employment protection rights for absolutely everyone in our society.

The Minister of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment (Dr Farren):

The motion calls on me to bring forward legislative proposals to provide employment protection rights for those directly or indirectly employed in on-course track betting. In case there is any misunderstanding, given the terms of the motion, I should emphasise that the people involved in this activity are in no sense without employment rights at present. They have the same employment rights as other employees. It is very clear from the remarks of the Member who moved this motion, and those of other Members, that the motion seeks to ensure that such workers should have extra protection with regard to Sunday working in the event of this Assembly making on-course betting on a Sunday legal. That is protection, in particular, from being compelled against their wishes to work on Sundays.

The question of the legalising of on-course betting on a Sunday is a matter for the Minister for Social Development. I understand that he has noted and is considering the debate and the outcome of the debate that took place on this general issue last December. If and when a decision is made to legalise on-course betting on a Sunday, I would be obliged and willing to introduce employment protection measures in tandem with any proposed legislation of that kind.

Rev Dr Ian Paisley:

I am sorry that I was not here for the first part of the debate. When the issue of protecting people because of their religious convictions was discussed in the House of Commons, many promises were made - for instance, that Sunday would not be treated as an ordinary working day. Those promises have all been broken. Can the Minister assure us that if people have to work on a Sunday and it is against their convictions to do so, they will be adequately protected? Many people have had almost a revolution in their family, because Sunday was the time when all the family was present. Because of workloads, they now cannot even have a proper family reunion on a Sunday.

If we are going to have Sunday working, then it should be recognised as a special day. Of course, I take the point - as I heard on the television - about other religions and their special days. The honour should be kept that was given to them originally on this sort of legislation.

4.15 pm

Dr Farren:

I assure the Member for North Antrim that I will ensure that the measures prescribed in any legislation of the kind that we are anticipating are enforced. I trust that he is not suggesting that just because British Ministers do not keep their word a Colleague representing the same constituency as himself is not expected to keep his regarding measures contained in any legislation for which he is responsible. I assure the Member that the measures will be implemented in the spirit and the letter of any such legislation.

The sort of protection involved would be the same as that which is now available to shop workers under the Sunday trading legislation. An on-course betting worker would have the right not to be dismissed for refusal to work on Sundays and not to suffer any detriment, such as denial of promotion or training opportunities, for that reason. Those rights would be enforceable by way of a complaint to an industrial tribunal, and I think that underlines the assurance that I have just given.

It would also be appropriate to ensure that on-course betting workers would be able, without suffering detriment, to give their employer notice that they wish to opt out of a clause in their contract that requires them to work on Sundays.

Protections such as those - and others as detailed by Mr Bradley in moving the motion -might have to be considered, and that would be necessary, fair and just. I would be prepared to introduce those protections if Sunday on-course betting were made legal in Northern Ireland.

My Colleague Mr O'Connor mentioned other days apart from Sunday that are regarded as sacred by people of different faiths. He said that there may be a case for considering the rights of those people whose faiths observe those days as sacred. There may well be a case for our examining the employment legislation with regard to such matters.

However, with regard to the motion, I assure Members that when it is necessary for us to take action we will do so in such a way as to provide adequate, fair and comprehensive protection to the workers who will be involved.

Mr Bradley:

As with my proposal, I will be brief in my winding-up speech. I thank the Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment Minister for his encouraging words; I also thank the Chairperson of the Committee and the other Members who share my views on employment protection. It is encouraging to hear that everyone shared those views.

I remind Members that the previous Administration, under the then Ministers Ingram and Worthington, carried out a consultation process on all matters pertaining to the proposal to introduce Sunday on-course betting. The exercise also sought opinion regarding the rights of betting workers if on-course betting were permitted.

The report which followed the consultation process gave some very revealing information, particularly paragraph 4.7.2 headed "To Provide Employment Protection Rights for Betting Workers Employed on Tracks if On-Course Betting on Sundays is Permitted". There was a poor response to that section of the pre-report survey. Only nine respondents were identified as being in the "broadly content" category. Those included people with track and horse interests, bookmaking interests, people associated with the Law Society and those described as church/religious-type bodies.

So as not to mislead, the report explains that the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland committee on public morals has indicated that employment protection is the absolute minimum required when Sunday on-course betting becomes a reality. In the category headed "Some reservations/suggestions", only six returns are recorded. None of the six make any suggestions. Their submissions expressed a number of fears, including possible conflict and injustice between employers and staff, as well as pressures on employees to work on Sunday. One submission found it hard to accept the idea that there should be no detriment to a person who refused to work on Sunday. Fortunately, all the fears expressed in this section can be easily addressed in the proposed legislation.

I am pleased to inform the House that in the third category, set aside to record unfavourable comments, not one objection is recorded. I repeat: there were no unfavourable comments. This significant fact alone demonstrates that the general public treated the consultation process with a degree of apathy. As I look around, I think that that apathy is reflected in this House also. I believe that many also demonstrated a level of tolerance, recognising that others may have, and are entitled to have, a different outlook regarding the subject, and that there is a need to adapt to meet other attitudes.

I conclude with the same lines with which I ended my opening remarks. I propose this motion on the clear understanding that protective legislation for all grades of workers, similar to that which applies in England and Wales, must be introduced prior to, or simultaneously with, the changes regarding on-course betting approved by the Assembly on 29 November 2000. I fully appreciate that the Minister of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment, like his ministerial Colleague, the Minister for Social Development, who is dealing with the successful November proposal, has a very demanding workload that is not exactly lessened by a motion such as this. I believe, however, that both are fully aware of the benefit that my original motion, and this necessary follow-on proposal, will bring to the overall economy of the area.

Question put and agreed to.


That this Assembly calls upon the Minister of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment to bring forward legislative proposals to provide employment-protection rights for those, directly or indirectly, employed in respect of on-course track betting.

Motion made:

That the Assembly do now adjourn. - [Madam Deputy Speaker.]


<< Prev / Next >>